Thursday, August 31, 2006
DHS Secretary Chertoff on Racial Profling
Question:The terrorism threat comes predominantly from young, Muslim male extremists. Without racial or ethnic profiling, are there ways to make airport security better match this threat?
Answer: Yes. At the extreme, 3-year-olds are not probably a threat we need to worry about, and 75-year-old grandmothers are probably not a threat. But if you look at the experience of watching suicide bombers in other parts of the world, saying those can't be women is just not factually correct. So I'm hesitant to say that we should focus only on males, or Muslims of a particular age.
Q: So what might an airport screener look for?
A: We are training our screening officers in behavioral pattern recognition, looking at ways people behave that will actually suggest they're trying to hide something. That's a positive step that does not require ethnic profiling but looks to the pattern of behavior. I think some element of that is talking to people when they come through, asking them a few basic questions: Where are you going? What are you doing? Why are you going there? These are tools that would allow us to be more precise, but without getting into racial profiling, which is a bad thing. [Link]
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
After 10/8: getting to the root of 'homegrown terrorism'
Since 7/7 and more recently 10/8 – when more than 20 Muslims were arrested by police in England on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack on aeroplanes – there has been much debate about what makes some British-born Muslims turn radical. The New Labour government has met with Muslim groups to talk about how to ‘win back’ Muslim youth, while the New Republic magazine in the US has argued that Britain, not Iraq or Iran, poses the biggest threat to American security. This view of Britain as a hotbed of radical Muslims misses what is really going on here: what we are faced with is not old-style political or even religious radicalisation, but rather the fragmentation and alienation fostered by today’s politics of identity....
There has certainly been much criticism of multiculturalism in recent months. Even the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, challenged the concept and announced Britain was in danger of ‘sleepwalking into segregation’. However, the process of segregation is more easily blamed on the alien values of extremist Muslims, rather than the culture of wider society. For instance, there has been strong criticism of the government’s unwitting support of extremist Islamist groups (see BBC Panorama’s exposé in 2005 of the extremist views of the Muslim Council of Britain), which ends up nurturing the most stridently religious elements in the community. However, these critics have then suggested that the government find more ‘moderate’ Muslims instead. It is rarely considered that the problem is not with the kind of Muslim groups the authorities are courting, but with the idea that foregrounding cultural identity is any way to connect to citizens at all. The solution is not to find ‘nicer’ Muslims with more palatable views, but to challenge the notion that Muslim people can only be engaged with on the basis of their identity. The unwillingness to do this reflects the disavowal of the possibility of developing a meaningful political culture that can allow people to transcend their private, cultural differences....
There is a small minority of terrorists who present a serious concern and require a security strategy. However, it is also necessary to grasp the social and cultural factors that fuel their worldview. This can be explained in relation to political developments in the West, arising out of identity politics, and which have spread globally. At the same time, for most Muslims, the turn to religiosity does not necessarily result in violence or even alienation from the mainstream. Many are grappling with the contradictory demands of identity politics while living normal, everyday lives. Unfortunately, the straitjacket of diversity policies risks intensifying these problems rather than enabling people to resolve them. [Link]
Khalra's Last International Speech Highlights Mass Crimesof KPS Gill
Eleven years ago, on September 6, 1995, the Punjab police abducted, tortured, and murdered human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra because he exposed the disappearances and killings of thousands of Sikhs by the Punjab police. In his last speech made to a Canadian audience, released today with subtitles by Ensaaf (http://www.ensaaf.org/Khalravideo.html), Jaswant Singh Khalra discusses his investigations into the disappearances and his readiness to die to expose the truth about these crimes. This video includes clips from his speech made at Dixie Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Toronto, Canada in April 1995, at a conference organized by the radio station Ankhila Punjab.
Jaswant Singh Khalra begins his speech with a moving fable about the struggle of truth and light against expanding darkness. He describes the emotions of thousands of mothers whose sons have been disappeared by the Punjab police, and poses the question that motivated his investigations: "A mother's heart is such that even if she sees her son's dead body, she does not accept that her son has left her," says Khalra. "And those mothers who have not even seen their children's dead bodies, they were asking us: at least find out, is our son alive or not?"
In this speech, Khalra describes how he traced the fate of many disappeared Sikhs to Amritsar's municipal cremation grounds. Through government records obtained from these municipalities, Khalra exposed a detailed history of systematic human rights violations in which security forces abducted, murdered, and secretly cremated an estimated 6,017 Sikhs in Amritsar district alone--then one of 13 districts in Punjab--from 1984 to 1995.
In November 2005, six Punjab police officers were held accountable for Khalra's abduction and murder. The architect of this crime, however, remains free. In his speech, Khalra pinpoints KPS Gill, then Director General of Punjab police, as the person in charge of the systematic abuses perpetrated by the Punjab police, and discusses the standard responses made by Gill to cover-up the mass secret cremations. Khalra further describes his struggle before the Punjab and Haryana High Court for accountability for these mass state crimes.
During the Khalra trial in February 2005, Special Police Officer (SPO) Kuldip Singh testified that he witnessed KPS Gill interrogate Khalra in illegal detention several days prior to his murder. SPO Kuldip Singh also testified that Khalra had been tortured. Despite this testimony, the Indian government has not investigated or charged KPS Gill for his role in murdering Khalra. India's obligations under international law require it to fully investigate human rights violations and identify and prosecute all perpetrators. The government cannot fulfill its legal obligations until it ends Gill's impunity for his role in Khalra's abduction, illegal detention, torture, and murder.
Please visit ENSAAF's webpage on Jaswant Singh Khalra at http://www.ensaaf.org/khalra.html
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Chicago Tribute Editorial on Profiling of Muslims
At this stage of assessing how best to minimize the threat to aviation security, it would be unwise to rule out the use of profiling in some form. Implemented carefully, it might allow a more effective allocation of security dollars without placing a "T" on the forehead of every Muslim man with a boarding pass.
It's not clear, though, that it would add much to law enforcement's arsenal. Police would be remiss to let Islamic extremism distract them from other potential threats. Theodore Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph and Timothy McVeigh were terrorists, but not Muslims. It also bears remembering that upward of 99.99 percent of all Muslims are not terrorists.
Profiling also can be defeated in obvious ways. A dark-skinned Islamic extremist can disguise his name, his ethnicity, his religion, his hair color, even his gender. He also can enlist help from someone in a different category: One Syrian man tried to bring down an El Al jet by putting a bomb in the carry-on bag of his Irish fiance.
In the wrong hands, profiling can create problems. Recently Ohio police arrested two Arab-Americans who had $11,000 and hundreds of cell phones and charged them with soliciting terrorism - only to release them a few days later. Three other Arab-American men found with 1,000 cell phones in their van were held on suspicion of trying to blow up Michigan's Mackinac Bridge. After questioning them, the FBI said it found no terrorist ties or intent.
But that doesn't mean local police, federal agents and transportation security personnel should have no discretion to follow their best instincts. In time, the government may embrace the use of computerized analysis of passenger lists to detect dangerous intent. If a sea of data finds an ominous pattern that touches on race or religion, law enforcement would be irresponsible to ignore it.
Profiling is not going to liberate travelers from the restrictions that go with flying in the post-9/11 era. We can't ban liquids or knives only for passengers who look Middle Eastern, or let non-Muslims skip the metal detector. Though Islamic terrorism is the conspicuous threat today, new enemies could emerge tomorrow.
The burden of safeguarding aviation can't be loaded onto one group. It will have to be shared by all of us. Profiling is not going to liberate travelers from the restrictions that go with flying in the post-9/11 era. [Link]
Monday, August 28, 2006
America's Muslims Aren't as Assimilated as You Think
If only the Muslims in Europe -- with their hearts focused on the Islamic world and their carry-on liquids poised for destruction in the West -- could behave like the well-educated, secular and Americanizing Muslims in the United States, no one would have to worry.
So runs the comforting media narrative that has developed around the approximately 6 million Muslims in the United States, who are often portrayed as well-assimilated and willing to leave their religion and culture behind in pursuit of American values and lifestyle. But over the past two years, I have traveled the country, visiting mosques, interviewing Muslim leaders and speaking to Muslim youths in universities and Islamic centers from New York to Michigan to California -- and I have encountered a different truth. I found few signs of London-style radicalism among Muslims in the United States. At the same time, the real story of American Muslims is one of accelerating alienation from the mainstream of U.S. life, with Muslims in this country choosing their Islamic identity over their American one.
A new generation of American Muslims -- living in the shadow of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- is becoming more religious. They are more likely to take comfort in their own communities, and less likely to embrace the nation's fabled melting pot of shared values and common culture. [Link]
Discrimination won't make air travel safer
In an attempt to protect innocent travelers, members of the U.S. government and national security organizations have suggested installing racial and religious profiling in airports nationwide - singling out and scrutinizing Middle Eastern and Muslim airline passengers.
The thought of such a practice should make any reasonable person cringe - it reeks with discrimination. To target and humiliate a minority group, even for security reasons, creates prolonged bitterness toward the majority. And if only Middle Easterners and Muslims are frisked extensively, Americans are making them into second-class citizens.
In 1954, Oliver Brown - plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education faced a similar plight. The state of Kansas wouldn't sanction black students' admission into white elementary schools. This obvious separation, which was solely based on skin color, led to a groundbreaking Supreme Court decision in support of the civil rights movement.
In its summary of the case, the Brown Foundation states, "Brown v. Board of Education was not simply about children and education. The laws and policies struck down by this court decision were products of the human tendencies to prejudge, discriminate against and stereotype other people by their ethnic, religious, physical or cultural characteristics."
Sometimes in a democracy, the majority must be compelled to behave in a socially responsible manner in order to prevent rampant discrimination and, possibly, the complete dissolution of a minority group from society.
To put this into perspective, imagine what it would be like to be 5 years old again: You're waiting patiently in the security line at the airport with your parents, and - as you and your entire family are not of Middle Eastern descent - you are greeted with smiles from the security personnel and briskly moved along without even a look of suspicion.
Looking behind you, you notice a boy your age and his family who have dark skin, are wearing traditional Islamic clothing and are being pulled aside by armed security guards. You see the bewildered eyes and humiliation in the faces of these individuals as they are interrogated and searched extensively as Caucasian, Black and Hispanic passengers stroll through security.
The repeated exposure of children to this kind of separation of religious and ethnic groups can only result in subconscious stereotyping of themselves and others. Even if the child grew up in an unprejudiced family, what he or she witnessed will leave a lasting impression. And, therefore, extends the vicious circle of yet another stereotype.
There is, undoubtedly, an essential need to keep a watchful eye on suspicious people in any airport. However, if racial and religious profiling is employed, it will only result in a further injury to American society, and cases such as Brown will become commonplace.
In order to preserve America's principles of equality, we must continue to search all airline passengers regardless of appearance. There will be some irate grandmothers and many confused toddlers, but such is the price we pay for being the freest country in the world. To compromise our civil rights on the basis of racial and religious profiling is a direct, inexcusable violation of American values and the equal protection of law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. [Link]
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Federal agency helps Muslims sue cruise line
Seven men are suing Norwegian Cruise Line alleging the company violated their civil rights by firing them because of their Middle Eastern origin and Muslim faith.
The federal complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu yesterday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Abdullah Yahva, Ahmed Al-Mlhany, Ahmed Almraisi, Nagi A. Alziam, Muthana A. Shaibi, Nork Yafaie and Samed Kassam. Named as defendants were NCL America Inc., Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., and Norwegian Corp. Ltd., which operate cruises in Hawaiian waters.
The men worked on NCL's Pride of Aloha until they were fired in "quick succession" beginning in July 2004, said Anna Park, regional attorney in the EEOC's Los Angeles office. The men are of Middle Eastern or Yemeni origins and all are Muslims, the lawsuit said.
"They were all hired around the same time, came on board and all pretty much fired," Park said. [Link]
JFK Airport illegally targeting Muslims, groups say
Muslim, Arab and South Asian passengers are being profiled by Homeland Security officers at Kennedy Airport, civil liberties groups said Wednesday, citing a New Jersey family that was detained and interrogated after a flight from Dubai last week.
The family, a mother and her 20-year-old twin daughters from Montclair, N.J., said they were plucked from the baggage area, held six hours without food or water by Customs and Border Protection agents and questioned about their views of Iraq.
Nahgam Alyaqoubi and her daughters, Arwa and Sumia Ibrahim, naturalized American citizens, said 200 other passengers of Arab, Muslim or South Asian backgrounds were detained on Aug. 15 in a roped-off area, days after the London bomb suspects were arrested.
The family joined officials from the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups at a news conference in the Manhattan office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to condemn what they say has been an increase in racial profiling since the London plot was uncovered. [Link]
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Muslim pilot reveals shock at being ordered off flight
A British Muslim airline pilot yesterday described the "humiliating" moment when he was hauled off a transatlantic flight just before take-off.
Amar Ashraf, 28, who was born in Wrexham, North Wales, said he felt " demoralised and humiliated" after being told to leave the flight from Manchester to Newark by a stewardess, and then being questioned by armed police. He believes his removal was down to having a "Muslim-sounding name".
Mr Ashraf, 28, a British Pakistani who was returning to his job as a pilot for one of Continental's partner airlines in the US, will lodge a formal complaint with Continental Airlines, with whom he was travelling, as well as with the US authorities.
His complaint follows growing concern among British Muslims over incidents in which Asian people have been removed from flights, as well as anger over the "passenger mutiny" in which two men were ordered off a plane bound for Manchester. Passengers became concerned by the two, who were said to be speaking Arabic and looked of Asian or Middle Eastern appearance. [Link]
Don't blame multiculturalism
The Commission for Racial Equality boss, Trevor Phillips, opened the floodgates to this erroneous debate about multiculturalism two years ago. Like the BBC newsreader George Alagiah, writing in yesterday's Daily Mail, he blamed the "policies of multiculturalism" for the alienation and radicalisation of British Muslims.
Both men are prominent, powerful public figures and their views make front-page news. The damage they are causing to good race relations cannot be underestimated.
Serialising his book A Home from Home in the Daily Mail, Alagiah warns that what he calls race relations diktats have created "ring-fenced" communities and "may be fuelling homegrown terrorism"....
What Alagiah and Phillips have done with this "straw man" debate about multiculturalism has been to shift the emphasis away from the real challenge, which is fighting social inequality, intolerance and racism, as well as the unprecedented demonising of Muslims for what can only be described as not being British enough. Alagiah and Phillips both know there are many isolated or enclosed communities: Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and Chinese, not to mention gated white communities and countryside ones. The fundamental difference between these and many Muslim communities, which may help us understand why the politics of extremism finds fertile ground, is gross social inequality and the feeling of being constantly under attack. [Link]
Monday, August 21, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006
For London's Muslims, Fear Of a Backlash: Many Say They Feel Alienated In Wake of Foiled Airliner Plot
Kashif Rashid keeps his chin shaved clean, his T-shirt loose over his blue jeans, his words lilting with a strong London accent. But the 28-year-old educator was just as Muslim as the old bearded men in the flowing robes sitting next to him Thursday night. And being Muslim, Rashid said, means something different now.
His relatives and friends have already heard hints of it while walking London's melting-pot streets.
"Stuff like, 'Why don't you go back to your own country?' and, 'I'm staying away from you.' That type of thing," said Rashid, who runs an adult education center. "Things have definitely changed. . . . You subconsciously fear that people will treat you different. You prepare yourself for what you would say if anyone says something to you, and you never felt like that before." [Link]
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Sikh slain after Sept. 11 will be memorialized
A Sikh man gunned down in east Mesa days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will be remembered as a symbol of protecting the innocent, religious freedom and diversity on the five-year anniversary of his senseless slaying.
Balbir Singh Sodhi, 49, was a gasoline station owner who emigrated from India. He wore a turban in recognition of his religion and was mistaken as an Arab by gunman Frank Roque, 47, of Mesa.
Sodhi's slaying Sept. 15, 2001, part of a shooting rampage that also targeted a Middle Eastern-owned business and home, became national news and a rallying cry for racial and religious tolerance throughout the Valley.
"We want to honor all those people who stood up and said hate crimes and backlash will not be tolerated in this community," said GuruRoop Kaur Khalsa, a Sikh community and religious leader....
Sodhi became a symbol for protecting the innocent because he went to a Sikh temple days before the shooting and warned fellow Sikhs that they must educate Americans about their religion so that they are not confused with Muslims.
But Kaur Khalsa said Sikhs are against racial and religious intolerance aimed at any group.[Link]
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Kind opponent: airport security should look for turbaned men named Mohammed
A Republican running in Wisconsin's Third Congressional District advocates racial profiling as a "no nonsense" security measure.Tags: racial profiling, Wisconsin, Muslims, turban, Nelson, Kind.
Paul R. Nelson suggests Muslim males ought to be singled out, by airport security. "Racial profiling is one way that we can cut down on security risks," said Nelson. Asked how to tell what a Muslim male looks like, Nelson said "well, you know, if he comes in wearing a turban and his name is Mohammed, that's a good start."
Nelson, of Woodville, is challenging incumbent Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse in the western Wisconsin district. [Link]
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Muslims face extra checks in new travel crackdown
[Britain's Department for Transport (DfT)] has been considering passenger profiling for a year but, until last week, the disadvantages were thought to outweigh the advantages. A senior aviation industry source said: “The DfT is ultra-sensitive about this and won’t say anything publicly because of political concerns about being accused of racial stereotyping.” Tags: racial profiling, Muslims, airport, bomb, terrorism, plot, London.
Three days before last week’s arrests, the highest-ranking Muslim police officer in Britain gave warning that profiling techniques based on physical appearance were already causing anger and mistrust among young Muslims. Tarique Ghaffur, an assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: “We must think long and hard about the causal factors of anger and resentment.
“There is a very real danger that the counter-terrorism label is also being used by other law-enforcement agencies to the effect that there is a real risk of criminalising minority communities.”
Sir Rod Eddington, former chief executive of British Airways, criticised the random nature of security searches. He said that it was irrational to subject a 75-year-old grandmother to the same checks as a 25-year-old man who had just paid for his ticket with cash.
Philip Baum, an aviation security consultant, said that profiling should focus on ruling out people who obviously posed no risk rather than picking out Asian or Arabs.
A DfT spokesman refused to make any comment or answer any questions on profiling. [Link]
Arizona Supreme Court Overturns Death Sentence for Frank Roque - Killer of Balbir Singh Sodhi
The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday commuted the death sentence of a Valley man who tried to avenge the destruction of the World Trade Center by gunning down a Sikh gas station attendant just days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Tags: hate crime, death penalty, Roque, Sodhi, Sikh, 9/11, backlash.
The high court unanimously agreed that Frank Silva Roque's mental illness and low IQ were mitigating factors and should have resulted in the lesser sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.
"We have such a doubt in this case, and therefore conclude that the death penalty should not be imposed," Vice Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch wrote. "Because of the serious nature of Roque's crimes, however, we conclude that he should be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life and never be released."
Roque, 47, was distraught over the 2001 terrorist attacks and decided to seek vengeance.
Four days after Sept. 11, he shot and killed Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner whom he mistook for an Arab, and then shot up a convenience store and a home owned by people of Middle Eastern descent....
Sodhi's family accepted the court's decision.
"As long as he is away from society and our family, it's fine," said his brother, Rana Singh Sodhi, though he questioned the high court's assertion that Roque is mentally ill.
"I don't think mentally ill people can make those (deliberate decisions about) targets," he said. [Link]
Monday, August 14, 2006
Fear of Muslims ties T.O. to Heathrow
I walked out of Heathrow Airport yesterday afternoon in London. Before boarding the plane Friday in Toronto it was impossible for me, a Sikh male with brown skin, black hair and a goatee, not to wonder if travelling would be as it was after 9/11.Tags: airport profiling, racial profiling, profiling, Sikh, Muslim, terrorism.
For about four months after the attacks on New York and Washington, many fellow passengers on flights I took to Winnipeg, New York and Las Vegas reacted to me as a child does on the first day of kindergarten. They were scared.
A lady in her 60s on a WestJet flight out of Hamilton told me she didn't mean to be rude, but would feel more comfortable if she could move from our row....
A new Gallup poll revealed the discomfort Americans have about being near Muslims: "22 per cent say they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbour; 18 per cent say they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim woman flying on the same airplane as themselves; while 31 per cent say they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim man on their flight; fewer than half believe U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States."....
More disturbing than any look I've gotten on planes are the number of mosques torched across North America and backlash attacks against Muslims reported since 2001. These are as unacceptable as any terrorism....
I wonder if I'll ever step on a plane again and sit next to a friendly stranger who greets me with an honest smile. [Link]
Saturday, August 12, 2006
What Not to Take From Britain's Success
From today's Washington Post, an op-ed by Juliette N. Kayyem, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and co-author of "Protecting Liberty in an Age of Terror":
[G]etting tougher on communities of interest -- including pronouncements that authorities will start profiling or focusing on minority populations -- is exactly what we ought not to emulate about Britain. The most serious homegrown attack on U.S. soil was by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.Tags: Britain, terrorism, plot, profiling, Muslims.
Immigrant groups feel themselves part of America, and our success is that we have made them feel that they have a role in the nation's destiny. Tougher surveillance, profiling or efforts that risk alienation might give us a sense that we are doing something, but the long-term legacy of such efforts could well prove self-destructive. Investing in those communities and asking for their assistance in the fight against terrorism is a smarter strategy.
There is much to learn from the British: their reticence about disclosing details, their clear expertise in human intelligence, their non-hysterical reaction to very real threats. But how we deal with our immigrant and domestic populations is certainly not one of them. [Link]
Friday, August 11, 2006
Details of Iqbal Singh Stabbing
A Santa Clara Sikh man was the victim of a July 30 stabbing that authorities allege was a hate crime.... Iqbal Singh, 66, was standing with his 2-year-old granddaughter in his family's carport in the 3400 block of Agate Drive, waiting to depart for a religious service at the San Jose Gurdwara, when he was stabbed once in the neck with a steak knife. Everett Thompson, the 25-year-old assailant, was a neighbor who said in police interviews that he stabbed Singh because he wanted to kill a Taliban.
"We didn't know [Thompson] before," Gurmeet Singh, Iqbal Singh's brother-in-law, told India-West. "He didn't speak. He just walked very close. Iqbal asked, 'What's the matter?' and as soon as he asked, [Thompson] stabbed him."
Iqbal Singh then ran toward his family's apartment building with Thompson in pursuit. At the same time, the rest of the Singh family, including Iqbal Singh's son and daughter-in-law, emerged from the apartment. Thompson fled the scene when he caught sight of them.
Thompson was arrested at his home shortly thereafter, where police also found the weapon he used, said Jay Boyarsky, who oversees hate-crime prosecutions for the Santa Clara County district attorney, in a San Francisco Chronicle report. Thompson was arraigned in a San Jose courtroom Aug. 2 on premeditated murder and hate crime charges, Deputy District Attorney Peter Waite told India-West. Thompson did not, at that time, enter a plea. "His attorney asked for a continuance, so he will be back Aug. 10," said Waite. "The point of that is to allow the attorney more time. He believes that there may be mental problems with his client and needs time to evaluate him."
Thompson is being held in custody without bail. If convicted of the attack, he could face a sentence of life in prison.
At press time, Iqbal Singh was in stable condition at a local hospital. His granddaughter was unhurt. "It's a big shock," Gurmeet Singh told India-West. "And, yes, it is a hate crime. But life has to go on. These are the incidents that can happen to anybody." When asked if he feels unsafe, Gurmeet Singh responded, "I don't feel that we're so afraid that we'd move from one place to another for this reason."....
"Incidents such as this have become all too common in the aftermath of 9/11," [Annie]Dandavati told India-West. Sikhs, whose traditional turbans are vaguely similar to those worn by the Muslim Taliban, are frequently the targets in these hate crimes. [Link]
In Response to London Terrorism Arrests, U.S. Government Officials Speak With American Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian American Leaders
Leaders of the American Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities participated in a nationwide conference call today with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other government officials in which both sides pledged to work together to protect our country and safeguard the civil rights of the various ethnic and religious communities. The conference call demonstrated that the American Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities are actively involved in helping to secure the country, and that the government is actively engaged with these communities. The DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties led the call.
Besides DHS, other agencies participating in the call included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice and Department of Treasury. Representatives of the United Kingdom also participated in the conference call.
During the conference call, ethnic and religious leaders made clear their continuing commitment to and cooperation with U.S. Government officials to protect our nation's security. Government officials also pledged to continue their work to protect all communities and uphold civil rights and civil liberties. [Link]
Sikh’s Sword Seized By School
A Sikh student at the Harvard Summer School who carries a kirpan—a sword worn sheathed and under clothing by baptized Sikhs as an article of faith—had his kirpan taken away from him in mid-July by Harvard administrators, though pressure from a Sikh advocacy group caused Harvard to return the kirpan soon afterwards.
Administrators first contacted the student, Navdeep Singh Johal, on July 6 and asked him to provide information about his kirpan. Johal contacted the Sikh Coalition, a group started by former Harvard Divinity School student Harpreet Singh in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in order to educate Americans about the religion and stem the rising tide of hate crimes against Sikhs.
Amardeep Singh Bhalla, the Coalition’s legal director, provided Harvard with a 28 page document outlining the religious meaning of the kirpan and legal precedents permitting Sikhs to carry the kirpan, including cases in Detroit, New York, Dayton, Ohio and Los Angeles.
On July 12, Johal was asked to meet with Dean of the Summer School Robert Lue and with William Holinger, the director of the Summer School’s Secondary School Program. They asked Johal not to wear his kirpan while they researched and considered “safety issues,” Johal said. [Link]
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Update: Iqbal Singh Stabbing
Santa Clara County officials announced a series of community meetings on hate crimes Thursday following a recent spike in racially or religiously motivated attacks.
On average, about five hate crimes are reported each month in the county, which normally has one of the lowest rates nationwide of such attacks, but in June, there were 13, according to the local Network for a Hate-Free Community.
"This is not what Santa Clara County is about," said County Supervisor James Beall.
Over the weekend, a Sikh was attacked in front of his Santa Clara home by a 20-year-old man who told authorities he wanted to attack a member of the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic movement in Afghanistan.
Everett Thompson was being held without bail after being charged Wednesday with premeditated attempted murder with a dangerous weapon and a hate crime enhancement for allegedly stabbing Iqbal Singh... in the neck Saturday.
In San Jose, meanwhile, a judge denied bail to Everett Thompson, 20, of Santa Clara, who could spend the rest of his life in prison if he is convicted of the pre-meditated attempted murder charge and hate crime enhancements he faces, Deputy District Attorney Peter Waite said today. Thompson is also charged with using a knife to cause bodily injury.
Thompson has remained in jail without bail since he was arrested Sunday morning, shortly after allegedly stabbing Iqbal Singh, 60, in the neck as he was standing in his carport in Santa Clara. According to police and prosecutors, Thompson targeted Singh because he wanted to harm a member of the Taliban and erroneously assumed Singh belonged to the Taliban because of his long beard and turban.
Thompson is expected back in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose at 2 p.m. on Aug. 10.
None of the defendants has entered a plea.
Court Works With Sikh Coalition to Create Appropriate Entry Policy
From the Sikh Coalition:
After working with the Sikh Coalition, a courthouse in Illinois will now allow Sikhs to enter without removing their turbans
Long Struggle to Pay Traffic Ticket
Inderveer and Manjit Singh arrived at the Will County courthouse in on March 17, 2006 to pay a traffic ticket. Inderveer Singh had received the ticket. His father, Manjit Singh, accompanied him.
As father and son were about to pass through the court’s metal detector, a security guard said that they would have to take off their turbans if they wanted to enter the courthouse. Manjit Singh told the security guard that their turbans are mandatory articles of their faith that can not be removed in public. Manjit Singh also told the security guard that he works as an officer for the state of Illinois and had not had encountered a problem wearing his turban before at the courthouse.
The security guard replied by saying that will have to talk to his Sergeant about whether they could enter courthouse without removing their turbans. A few minutes later, a courthouse Sergeant came to talk to them. The Sergeant stated that the Chief Judge, the Honorable Stephen White, must approve them entering the courthouse with their turbans on.
The Sergeant also told them that they said that they would have to remove their turbans if they wanted to go into the courthouse to speak to the Chief Judge because he could not come down to speak with them.
Inderveer Singh and Manjit Singh refused to take off their turbans in accordance with their sacred beliefs. Manjit Singh then provided the Sergeant with a state photo I.D. to show to the Chief Judge. The Sergeant left with the photo to show it to the Chief Judge. He later came back and stated that the Chief Judge replied in reaction to seeing the I.D., "In 25 years I have never seen him in this court room." The Sergeant then said he would not allow them in the courthouse.
Manjit Singh then decided to call his lawyer to ask for assistance. He asked that his attorney come to the court immediately. When his attorney arrived, he asked Inderveer Singh to sign the ticket, so that he could go into the court and submit it for Inderveer.
Five minutes later the Chief Judge came to meet with them. He explained that people are not allowed to wear head coverings in court because gang members could bring weapons to court concealed by a hat. He said, however, that he would allow Inderjit Singh and his father into the courtroom as long as their attorney, who is an officer of the court, said they were not bringing any weapons into the court under their turbans. Inderjit Singh was then able to go into the courtroom to pay his ticket.
Coalition Works With Courthouse for Policy Change
On April 21, 2006 the Coalition’s Legal Director sent Judge White a fourteen-page letter and packet of information on the rights of Sikhs to enter places of public accommodation while wearing their turbans. On May 15, 2006 Judge White spoke with the Coalition’s Legal Director to explain the court’s safety concerns. Judge White said that in the past gang members had hid weapons in their headdress to enter the courthouse.
After receiving another letter from the Coalition on May 23, 2006, the Judge called the Coalition’s Legal Director this past July to inform him that the courthouse would allow Sikhs to enter its courthouse. He instructed his chief of security to work with the Coalition to develop a written policy for court security personnel that would allow people who wear any religious headdress to enter the Will County courthouse. The Coalition will also to work with courthouse security personnel to provide information and training to them on Sikhs and Sikh practices so that they better interact with Sikhs entering the courthouse.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
EEOC Suing Louisville Marriott Over Muslim Hair Coverings
The Marriott Louisville Downtown discriminated against four women who were turned down for housekeeping jobs because they each wore a traditional Muslim hair covering called a hijab, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit. Tags: Muslim, discrimination, employment, Marriott, hijab.
The EEOC sued the hotel's owners last week in U.S. District Court in Louisville, accusing them of unlawful discrimination against the women.
Marriott officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
"We're still reviewing the litigation," said hotel spokesman Robert Gunnell of Perits Public Relations.
The women went to the EEOC on May 25, 2005, three days after being turned down for jobs, said Kenneth W. Brown, a senior EEOC attorney.
Brown, who investigates workplace discrimination complaints, said an employment agency sent the women to the hotel, where they were told they couldn't work after refusing to take off their hijabs.
Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act requires an employer to accommodate religious practices unless it poses an "undue burden," Brown said. [Link]
International Reports of Iqbal Singh Stabbing
Times of India:
For the family of a victim of hate crime, there can be only questions and no answers. The only solace for Iqbal Singh's family, in this backward village of Punjab's Gurdaspur district, is that their sole bread-earner has survived his ordeal. PunjabNewsline (India):
A resident of Santa Clara, Iqbal was reportedly waiting for his family to go to a gurdwara in San Jose when he was stabbed in the neck. The attacker was allegedly a 20-year-old coloured boy, who reports claimed was racially or religiously motivated.
Iqbal Singh resident of the KushalPur village was stabbed on the neck while he was waiting with his granddaughter for other members of the family, in front of the house before leaving for San Jose Gurudwara Sahib.Tags: Sikh, stabbing, hate crime, Iqbal Singh, Santa Clara, India.
He was rushed to hospital and lucky to have survived the attack moreover responding well to the medical treatment.His family really wants him back and was shocked to learn that he was attacked. They feel the sikhs have been subjected to these crimes .Police has arrested the 20-year old Everett Thompson for committing the crime. Bikramjit Singh, son of the victim said “There is no other reason for killing my father except hate” Post 9/11.Sikhs with their turbans and beards have been subjected to these crimes because of their resemblance to Arabs.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Updates: Stabbing of Iqbal Singh
* [E]xpected to be arraigned today, in San Jose, is 20-year-old Everett Thompson, who allegedly stabbed his neighbor with a steak knife in Santa Clara on Sunday because he wrongly believed the Sikh grandfather belonged to the Taliban.
* Everett Thompson, 25, could face life in prison if convicted in the attack, prosecutor Jay Boyarsky said. He said formal charges will be filed today, and prosecutors will ask that Thompson be held without bail.
Iqbal Singh, 40, was standing with his 2-year-old granddaughter in his family's carport on Sunday preparing to leave for religious services when Thompson approached and stabbed him once in the neck with a steak knife, Boyarsky said.
Singh did not know Thompson, who said nothing during the attack ....
Singh was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover, police Sgt. Kurt Clarke said. The granddaughter was not injured.
Thompson was arrested at his home a short distance away, where police also found the knife they suspect was used, said Boyarsky, who oversees hate-crime prosecutions for the Santa Clara County district attorney.
"There are indications in the police report that Mr. Thompson wanted to seek revenge for Sept. 11 and attack a member of the Taliban," Boyarsky said.
"Investigators believe that it was hate-crime motivated," Clarke said. "Mr. Singh was wearing a turban, and Mr. Thompson interpreted that Mr. Singh was a member of the Taliban, which is obviously not true."
The Taliban is a fundamentalist Islamic movement in Afghanistan that is fighting a guerrilla war there after a U.S. invasion ousted it from power in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The regime required men to wear beards and head coverings.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in northern India. The religion proscribes that Sikhs never cut their hair, and men often wear turbans. There are about 40,000 Sikhs in the Bay Area, according to area Sikh leaders, and many have been harassed by people who mistake them for Muslims and link them to terrorism.
"It's sadly not unknown for Sikh individuals to be targeted as victims of hate crimes by people who perceive them as a quote-unquote terrorist or a quote-unquote Muslim extremist," Boyarsky said. "This crime seems to fit that horrible pattern."
* [T]he victim in the Santa Clara stabbing, Iqbal Singh, remains in the hospital; a gash on his neck is slowly healing.
Reports of the crime shocked the suspect's close-knit family. Thompson's cousin Gary Lopez described a large multicultural family, that includes a Sikh great-uncle in Los Angeles.
``This is not something a sane person would do,'' Lopez said. ``This isn't something that the Everett I know would do.''
But Thompson began to change two years ago, Lopez said. He was arrested for crouching on his hands and knees in the middle of a South Bay street and barking like a dog, Lopez said. The family intervened and Thompson began taking medication.
* Singh remains hospitalized in fair condition at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said today. He is expected to recover from his injuries, Clarke said.Tags: Sikh, stabbing, hate crime, Iqbal Singh, Santa Clara.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Sikh Stabbed in Driveway: Neighbor is in Custody; Police Say He Beleived Victim was in Taliban
The day after the stabbing of a Santa Clara grandfather left South Bay Sikhs reeling, prosecutors are weighing hate crime and attempted murder charges against his neighbor, who apparently believed the man belonged to the Taliban.Tags: Sikh, stabbing, hate crime, attempted murder, Iqbal Singh, Santa Clara.
Iqbal Singh, 40, was waiting in his carport with his 2-year-old granddaughter around 10:50 a.m. Sunday when the suspect approached him and stabbed him in the neck with a steak knife, Santa Clara police Sgt. Kurt Clarke said.
Singh was still in the hospital Monday with serious injuries. The girl was unhurt.
``It's terrifying,'' his brother-in-law, Gurmeet Singh, said. ``Here he is standing outside of his home, and he is attacked.''
That the stabbing might have been driven by hate doesn't surprise Gurmeet Singh.
``We Sikhs are the most targeted for hate crimes,'' he said. ``People see us, and they don't understand who we are. They associate us with terrorists.''
Santa Clara police arrested Everett Thompson, 20, of Santa Clara, later Sunday, Clarke said. He was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder and a hate crime, Clarke said.
Investigators are trying to determine why Thompson allegedly attacked Singh.
There are indications that Thompson, who may suffer from mental illness, believed Singh was a member of the Taliban, officials said Monday. Singh is not.
The Taliban is a Sunni Islamist movement based in Afghanistan. Sikhism is an unrelated religion and culture founded in the Indian state of Punjab.
``We send our prayers not just to Mr. Singh and his family, but to the entire Sikh community,'' said Jay Boyarsky, the supervising deputy district attorney who oversees hate-crime prosecutions in Santa Clara County.
Boyarsky, who praised the Santa Clara Police Department for its ongoing investigation, added: ``Sadly, this is not the first time that a person has wrongfully targeted a Sikh person on the basis of physical appearance.''
The prosecutor cited a case shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, in which two men assaulted a Sikh and set his ice cream truck on fire.
When Singh was attacked, he was waiting for the rest of the family to come down to the carport from their upstairs apartment on Agate Drive. They were on their way to worship services at San Jose Gurdwara Sahib, Gurmeet Singh said.
Iqbal Singh, he said, wears both a turban and a beard. Those are two symbols of Sikh culture that many don't understand, said Gursharan Singh, a Milpitas-based reporter for the magazine Punjab Today who is not related to the victim.
Different cultures use turbans to signify different things; for some it is a sign of religious learning, and for others it is part of cultural dress.
For Sikhs, Gursharan Singh said, the turban is not as much religious as it is cultural.
The religion, like others, promotes peace and understanding.
``We are simply trying to peacefully live, earn a living and practice our religion,'' Gurmeet Singh said. ``This hate is driven by ignorance.'' [Link]